Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wilpon and Willets Point

We all know that the drive to redevelop Willets Point on the graves of small property owners was spurred on by the Wilpons who were looking to redevelop the area around their new stadium and increase the value of their own property in the process. Given the poor financial performance of the Mets it is clear that they need all the help they can get.

Now we find out, however, that their financial situation could very well be catastrophic-as it was revealed yesterday in Federal Court; "A federal judge ordered the owners of the New York Mets baseball team and their business partners to return as much as $83 million they withdrew from Bernard Madoff's firm and said a jury will decide whether they need to return more."

This is potentially a death blow to the Wilpons-particularly if a jury eventually decides that the Wilpons knew about the Madoff scam: "Any verdict that awards more money to Mr. Picard could have a potentially devastating impact on the team's owners. The total amount Mr. Picard is seeking isn't one that the team's owners are in a position to pay, according to people familiar with team's and the family's finances."

Which brings us to the phony Phase I of the Willets Point development-the one that the NYC EDC has refused to disclose the bidders for. It is believed that Sterling Equities-the financial arm of the Wilpons-is a bidder for the development rights. If so, this is another compelling reason why EDC should let the public in on who has made bids-since it is certainly possible that Wilpon and his partner Saul Katz will be found liable for knowingly participating in a fraud.

For too long EDC has acted with impunity-keeping the public and local elected officials in the dark about its plans. After all, the Phase I development violates all of the approvals that the project received four years ago-the last one from a clueless city council. The least the city can do is to establish an open vetting process-because we might also find that the Wal-Mart loving Related is also being short listed. And we know whenever Related gets short listed the public will be short changed.

So let's let the sun shine in on this white elephant of the mayor's-a project that will cost too much and deliver too little for the tax payers of the city.